Did I tell you my discovery this summer? Salad! Yeap, the simple, humble salads. I used to dislike salads.
Growing up in Vietnamese food culture, I was spoiled with the choices of veggies for meals. But most of the veggies are cooked, and we just did not embrace salad much.
This (already gone, technically) summer, I made a switch and developed a “thing” for main meal salads. Initially, the effort was to get 5 serves of vegetables in my diet. Since then, I have developed a love for the refreshing and light flavours and texture of different kinds of salad. My favourites are chickpeas and cabbage coleslaw, wrapped with a warm tortilla for lunch. It is delicious and filling without making me feel sleepy after lunch.
Gardening, too, has made me appreciate vegetables even more. Home-grown tomatoes, oh my god. How sweet, juicy and pretty are they? My summer staple has been quinoa, toasted bread cubes and chopped tomato salad. We have enjoyed it almost every summer lunch.
Unfortunately, main meal salads are still a no go at our family dinner table. It must come from habits. But certain someone regards fresh vegetables as raw and dull *sigh*. (This comes from a household when even lettuce is cooked to dead!!) I have sneaked in salad here or there though. Tomato salad with pasta, burghul salad with grilled meat, zucchini “carpaccio” … It is getting there, somewhere. I just hope vegetables will get more love as time goes by.
So, here they are. My two favourite salads. The first one is a crowd pleaser, a creamy potato salad. I’ve sneaked in some blanched broccoli for good measure. The second one, chicken cabbage salad with tamarind dressing, is my staple. I love the natural sweetness and tartness of tamarind here. A departure from the much loved Vietnamese cabbage chicken salad (goi ga), but in a good way.
Viet-Russian Potato Salad
Salad Nga (Russian salad), as we call it in Vietnam. This is a favourite when I grew up. You won’t find a party without it. I’ve change the recipe a bit, adding broccoli and edible petals from my garden. Light, creamy, tasty and inspiring.
5 large potatoes (I used a creamy flesh variety)
5 small gherkins, finely diced
Kernels from a corn cob, lightly boiled
½ red capsicum, de-seeded and diced finely
4 tablespoon mayonnaise (low-fat works fine)
4 tablespoon sour cream (low-fat works fine)
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon paprika
100g brocolli, cut into florets, blanched
(optional) 60g of Vietnamese style meat loaf, diced
Peel the potato and boil them in salted water until soft. Drain and mash.
Combine the mashed potatoes with cooked corn kernels, diced gherkins, diced Vietnamese meat loaf (optional), mayonnaise and sour cream, salt and paprika. Adjust seasoning to your taste.
Mount the potato mixture onto a serving plate. Decorate with blanched broccoli and edible petals if you have any.
Chicken, cabbage and pear salad with tamarind dressing
I ate this for lunch very often. They make great filling for rice paper rolls, too.
Ingredients (serve 2-3)
¼ small purple cabbage
60g sesame seeds, toasted lightly
100g cooked chicken breast, shredded
2 tablespoon tamarind paste (found in Asian shops)
4 tablespoons warm chicken broth or water
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoon honey grain mustard
1-2 teaspoons raw sugar
Herbs – chopped coriander, parsley etc.
Clean the cabbage, and shred finely. Slice the pear (peel the skin beforehand if it bothers you).
Make the dressing by combining all the ingredients together. Whisk to combine. Taste to see if it needs adjustment.
Toss the cabbage, chicken and pear with the dressing mixture. Just before serving, mix in the herbs and toasted sesame seeds.